After playing not to lose last week against Georgia, No. 4 UCLA women’s tennis (6-1) returned to the courts playing to win against No. 17 TCU (4-5), and came away with a 4-1 victory.
In a match marred by injuries on both sides, the Bruins found ways to focus on the task at hand despite losing senior Robin Anderson to a sprained ankle and sophomore Jennifer Brady to a stress fracture earlier in the week.
“We were prepared for tough battles,” said coach Stella Sampras Webster. “But to beat TCU like we did was impressive. It was decisive.”
UCLA entered doubles play with an early advantage after TCU’s No. 3 doubles team of Simona Parajova and Sofiko Kadzhaya retired before match play began. Needing only one win to clinch the doubles point, the No. 2-ranked duo of juniors Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips outplayed their opponents with a variety of deep groundstrokes, angled volleys and deft dropshots.
The Bruins said they didn’t lose focus, and entered singles play with each player concentrating firmly on her own court.
Momentum behind her, McPhillips raced out to a 3-1 lead before TCU’s Parajova forfeited due to injury. With another retirement, UCLA held a 2-0 advantage, with leads on four of the five remaining courts.
Freshman Terri Fleming, coming off tough matches during the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors Championship last weekend, rebounded with an aggressive showing, outhitting her opponent at the baseline and net enroute to a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
“Against Georgia, I didn’t go after my shots,” Fleming said. “(Against TCU), I wasn’t complacent and brought the same intensity from practice. I worked to turn my weaknesses into strengths and just went for it.”
TCU’s own star freshman, Alexis Pereira, earned the first point for the Horned Frogs with a straight-set 6-4, 6-3 victory against UCLA sophomore Kelly Shaffer.
The three remaining matches were tight, with momentum shifting drastically between UCLA and TCU. Senior Kaitlin Ray and Harrison both squandered five-game leads, but were able to regain their composure to come away with the tiebreaks.
Senior Chanelle Van Nguyen, playing at the No. 1 position for the first time because of Anderson’s injury, overcame early nerves against TCU’s Stephanie Tan. After a back-and-forth rally that had her scrambling across the baseline, Van Nguyen took a 5-4 lead before claiming the first set 6-4.
Following an injury timeout by Tan, Van Nguyen controlled the second set from the first point, clinching the match for the Bruins with a 6-4, 6-0 victory.
“Other teams want to win more and they want to beat us even more,” Van Nguyen said. “We have to keep the same mentality, but work harder because we want it more than them.”
After a string of grueling matches against the Lady Frogs, the fatigued Bruins said they welcome the long weekend’s reprieve before returning to practice Tuesday. UCLA will focus first on their Friday road match against No. 42 St. Mary’s (4-3) before shifting attention to Saturday’s match against No. 5 Cal (5-1). The defending Pac-12 champions from Berkeley are led by the No. 1 player in the country, Maegan Manasse, and former No. 1, Zsofi Susani.
With the road match against the Bears and a home match against the rival Trojans approaching, the Bruins look to maintain the same level of play and same fired-up intensity that they showed Saturday against the Lady Frogs.